Moderator Pick
May 18th, 2020

Flexibility for Dual District Collaboration

In the state of California, there are many virtual learning schools, whether public charter or private academies, that have a robust, comprehensive virtual learning program that nurtures the students learning needs. Students can and do thrive in these environments. Students can work in a live setting or at their own pace. One familiar drumbeat for students is that the social aspect is less than what they hoped for, yet they thrive. The traditional brick and mortar (BM) learning environments are at a turning point.

Before COVID-19, BM schools faced ever-increasing classroom sizes, vaping, drug use along with less attention to those with IEP's. The offerings were limited in many ways for special education. By asking parents, you will hear from them that teachers and school administrators quietly but commonly complained there were too many students to give them the quality time they felt were deserved. Additionally, campus supervisors could not police so many kids that it was practically impossible. COVID-19 brings new challenges that need to be met for a safer learning environment.

Clearly, today’s conversations are about smaller class sizes to accommodate social distancing and to incorporate a virtual learning model to assist classroom size needs. There is a silver lining from these new challenges that is the quasi learning environment where virtual meets physical school environments and bringing the best of both worlds together. How we do that makes worlds of difference.

I propose to allow parents to choose the virtual learning environment; their students may greatly benefit from any state-approved entity and incorporate that with their local school district if the parent decides to have the social inclusion for their student. Parents should not be made to pick from the few choices the district has given them for virtual learning they have within their district when there are so many other robust virtual environments.

Another concern is the social-emotional and transitional offerings of the BM schools. Many of the virtual learning environments have a plethora of age-appropriate offerings with online engagement, allowing for students to interact. Students can attend a live scheduled meeting or makeup by viewing the recorded version at their leisure. An example of high school age students' offerings would be safe dating, opening a bank account, how to apply for a job, career planning, how to make friends, building healthy relationships, the list goes on, and the learning canvas is customizable. By allowing the virtual school environments to take on this much-needed student nurturing portion of their daily learning would be a benefit for them and an offering, a parent should be able to choose to add from any state-approved learning environment.

Funding would have to be flexible between two districts, a shared fund. The red tape blocking a student's success is these two learning environments being literally separated by funding "it's mine" local school districts bemoan. Educators and administrators at the state level are trying to satisfy the challenges of Covid-19 with tight time constraints. Parents beg for quality education for their children. BM school districts are set up to fail as they try to incorporate a virtual learning model with their traditional learning model. In the long run, we will see they are not able to compete with well established, thriving virtual learning environments. Why try to create a whole new learning model? Why not just blend the two well established learning environments allowing each to do what they do best?

The state educational funds need to be flexible to make things work in our new environment. The flexibility should be easy to navigate with few barriers for school districts to be able to work together. Our students will thank us later!

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Comments (2)

Comments (2)

Hi Kimberly:
Thanks for joining our conversation and sharing your idea. What needs to change so CA can make this shared vision a reality? How do you get past the "it's mine" mindset?

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Cindy R.

Thank you for responding to my post. The cause for the change is already upon us and clear. In a restructuring mindset, that cause is the buy-in and motivation for the change. I am not knowledgeable about what the barriers of funding that would be in the way, and my mind, nothing is impossible. The people who can craft a structural funding change would have to educate me about why they could not make it possible for me to respond appropriately.
Outside of that, the shared vision is a natural reality.

From what I have seen, the charter schools and academies with virtual learning environments can move our brick and mortar (BM) schools forward through this need for change. I have recently spoken with several educators asking questions to broaden my perceptions and came to the conclusion that begs for further discussion.

If the charter schools can have a listing of vendors for parents to choose curriculum and resources to outsource a customizable educational environment, then why can’t BM districts? Why can’t BM add a vendor funding stream to their model for parents to select virtual environments to satisfy the current classroom size needs we are facing in today’s challenges? Please explain what funding barriers are keeping this from happening?
If these questions can be answered by people who can make changes, then a broader discussion can happen.

Further, I have noticed that many school districts do already have a “lean” virtual school option providing a couple of choices. That is the area that needs to change and open up. Those current contracted vendors can still exist carrying the curriculum the district chooses, and additional vendors could be to allow for more choices the gateway to the other virtual school districts where a shared funding stream can happen. The additional vendors will significantly benefit the many children, including the students that qualify for IEP or 501. The students would benefit from this change to provide them the IEP that works for them through those channels in addition to the overall structural change for smaller classroom sizes to accommodate the COVID-19 social distancing. Perhaps special education funding can be utilized for qualified IEP/504 students?

To answer the “it’s mine” mindset that comes from the top. It is about salaries, taxes, unions, and scrutiny on how funds are spent. That is something that is a bigger problem and should be addressed because it can sour initiatives making them DOA. To move forward with an outlook to mainstream the smaller classroom quasi delivered need, the “it’s mine” can be taken out of this equation once the state initiates a mandate to restructure funding to address the above idea. I believe if at the state level, a set of blueprints of what is acceptable social distancing outlining the above plans, that can be a way for districts to step in quickly to resolve today's issues. I read in the news today that the school districts will be left to decide on their own. I do not believe that it is a good plan, as a uniformed approach would be beneficial for consistency.